Tag Archives: Discipleship

Doers of the Word

Living in the Spirit
September 30, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:13-46

‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. –Matthew 21:28-32

I worked in a nursing home when I was in high school. The experience was a great education. We had a tiny very fragile patient who suffered from some disease that left her permanently fixed in a near-fetal position with rotting flesh resulting in multiple, untreatable bedsores. She could no longer talk but was alert enough to let you know what foods she did not like. She spat out pureed spinach immediately when it entered her mouth. We quit putting spinach on her plate. We could feed her vanilla ice cream anytime. A son visited her at least once a week. He arrived on a motorcycle wearing a leather jacket, headband, and jeans. He did not say much would greet us if we greeted him but that was about it. He stood by his mother’s bed and held her hand or brushed the hair off her forehead. He always brought vanilla ice cream and fed it to her.

His sister and her husband came once while I worked there. They lived in another state. Did not have anything to do with her brother, I discovered when I mentioned that he visited a few days before they did. The sister responded angrily at her mother’s condition, demanded to talk to the doctor, and threatened to sue for neglectful care. The doctor came to the home and explained the nature of the disease and that her condition would get worse. He had contacted scientist trying to find better treatments and assured her that all that could be was being done. The daughter spent very little time in the room with her mother and after the discussion with the doctor she left. As far as I know, nothing resulted from her visit. I am an advocate for justice, and if I thought a nursing home was providing substandard care, I would bring it to the attention of authorities, which was not the case in this instance.

In our society, we seem to invest a lot of time and energy getting bent out of shape over the behavior of others without considering what God is calling us to do. Christ calls us to love one another not judge the other.

Prayer: Lord let our lives reflect your love to all who witness our actions. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Discipline

Eastertide
May 26, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.—1 Peter 5:6-11.

I do not know about you, but I am very disciplined about the things I am disciplined about not so much the things I am not. Probably addicted to doing yoga every morning, I must make myself practice the art of putting something up after I use it. One day l I walk into my kitchen and wonder from where did all this clutter come: scissors two inches from the draw in which they belong, two cutting boards, the strip of cellophane recently torn from the top of a bag of coleslaw. Putting away or throwing away similar items seems to be in the DNA of most of my friends.  Once I discover my untidiness, I improve for a few days, but then there it is again.

The truth is there are some things that are a part of our being that we do by rote, which is not discipline. To me, discipline means doing the right thing every time whether we want to or not. Now that is a tough order, and it is what  Peter is calling us to do regarding our discipleship.

Much of discipleship’s discipline involves getting relationships right, loving our neighbors, wanting the very best for them, all the time every time. People say things to us that came from something that happened to them earlier in the day or in life and had nothing to do with us but it hurt anyway. At another time,  we go off on something that causes pain to another with no idea something about the same issue impacted their life. How do we learn to weave ourselves together as the one Body of Christ? Our scripture today speaks eloquently. God enables our discipline. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God. . .the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. God can and will enable our discipleship when we let God.

 Prayer: God, make us whole, make us one. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Open My Ears

Epiphany
February 26, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 17:1-9

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’ –Matthew 17:5-8

Many years ago, while visiting a friend, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, I toured the University’s Memorial Museum while my friend was in class. Rounding a corner to enter the next exhibit I encountered a gigantic stone object of worship used by an indigenous group from the southern hemisphere of the Americas. My immediate reaction was to gasp and scream almost simultaneously.  Once I figured out what I was seeing, I quickly glanced around to see if anyone heard my embarrassing outburst. At least no one came running. The staff perhaps were acclimated to such behavior. I tell you this as preface to saying: I do not have a clue what happened at the Transfiguration but I feel confident, unlike my experience with a large rock, something life-changing occurred.

The gospels indicate that Jesus prepared his disciples well for what was coming. As the prophets of old noted often, they heard but did not comprehend. Wouldn’t you love to have been a witness to the discussions that occurred during those days between the Resurrection and Pentecost. “So, that’s what he meant when he said…” “I was so scared on that mountain, I couldn’t think of anything but surviving.” “How could we have been so dense?”

What are we hearing but not comprehending today? What are we going to do about it? Sometimes the out-of-date words of an old song have great meaning for us today.

Prayer:
Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

 Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear;
and while the wavenotes fall on my ear,
everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine! 

Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!* Amen.

*Hymn Open My Eyes by Clara H. Scott. See at http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh454.sht

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

God’s Light

Epiphany
January 21, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 4:12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
   on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ –Matthew 4:12-17

The writer of Matthew felt a strong need to establish Jesus’ credentials related to Jewish scripture and thought. It is interesting looking back over someone’s life and in hindsight seeing where all the puzzle pieces fit. Though not an exact science, it is often meaningful. Jesus learned much from the Hebrew prophets and John’s ministry; most likely understood from John’s death that Jesus’ death was imminent. Perhaps that is why he returned to Galilee and focused on training a cadre of disciples to carry on the work. One voice crying in the wilderness is not enough.

When I was a child, we laid on the flatbed of a truck on hot summer nights seeking relief from the day’s heat. The only light came from the moon and the stars in the sky and fireflies. I loved to watch fireflies. With all the lights in the city, it is rare for me to see a star anymore much less a firefly, but my faith tells me they are still there. In a world, plush with artificial light, it is important that we remember we are called to be the light of a world that may not see the truth of God’s love because of the flooding of the world with beams of lesser lights.

Prayer: Lord, help us be light to the world that is lost in darkness while at the same time blinded by artificial light. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Cleaning Filters

binging-isnt-a-good-coping-mechanism-so-why-do-i-do-it-21599033Living in the Spirit
July 3, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.” –Luke 10:10-11

It is interesting how differently Christians can interpret the Bible. Most of those differences are dependent on the filters within our own minds installed through life experiences. We all have them. Actually we all need them to help our minds compartmentalize and streamline our functioning. Good filters are like traffic laws designed to keep transportation running smoothly and efficiently. Bad filters often result from entrenched coping measures that were instilled in negative situations. I was involved in a car accident a couple of months ago when a car T-boned the back left side of my car centered at the back wheel. No one was hurt and my car is repaired, but two months later, I find myself flinching, when a car seems to be getting two close to my left side. That is a copping filter. Now if it causes me to be a safer driver, it becomes a good filter and hopefully the flinching will subside. If it causes me to make erratic corrections, it could be a very bad filter. If it should have caused me to quit driving at all, it has become a life altering filter.

When I read our scripture for today, I thought of these filters. The scripture is one of the hard sayings of Jesus. While it does quote him as instructing disciples to wipe the dust off their feet as a protest against the people who reject them, I wonder if it is actually an instruction to not let rejection cloud their ministry as they move on to another place and population. He is advising us to keep our filters clean. I frankly believe that can only be done through the grace of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit because sometimes we cannot let rejection and hurts go without help.

Telling the rejecters that the kingdom of God has come near may be Jesus’ way of letting them know that the door to God’s love is never closed them.

Prayer: Lord, guide us in examining ourselves to identify filters that may be holding us back from serving you to our best. Once, identified guide us in letting the bad filters go and incorporating good filters into our lives. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

The Discipline of Love

Hebrews612Living in the Spirit
June 16, 2016

Scripture Reading: Galatians 3:23-29

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. –Galatians 3:23-26

Discipline, what is it exactly? According to Merriam -Webster Dictionary* it is:

  1. a subject that is taught
  2. training or experience that corrects, molds, strengthens, or perfects especially the mental faculties or moral character
  3. punishment: such as a:  chastisement self-inflicted as mortification or imposed as a penance or as a penalty b:  punishment by one in authority especially with a view to correction or training
  4. control gained by enforcing obedience or order (as in a school or army): strict government to the end of effective action
  5. a rule or system of rules governing conduct or action: system of regulation
  6. an orderly or regular pattern of behavior

The word disciple, one who receives instruction from another, one who accepts the doctrines of another and assists in spreading or implementing them,** perhaps has more importance to those of us who claim to be disciples of Christ as it derives from the word discipline.

Paul takes us all the way back to family in describing the art of discipleship to Christ. We are shaped by family for better or for worse, learning how to care for ourselves and interact with others or not learning these things. In the life of Jesus and his teaching, we have received the ways of his discipline. Training not so much focused on punishment but blessed by love. One that builds on the love transmitted to us by our parents and others and, by God’s grace, a love that fills in voids that might be present in our love.

We cannot change another person. We can own our own issues and through the love and grace of God experience growth in our ability to love more completely. Through God’s love and our love, we can share this discipline of love with all people and that will overcome evil.

Prayer: Lord, teach me to love like Jesus. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/Discipline

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Team Jesus

FearEastertide
May 3, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 15:1-8

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. –John 15:6-8

Billy Donovan is coming to town. It was announced recently that the current coach of the Florida Gators NCAA team had been hired to coach the Oklahoma City NBA basketball team. He was introduced to Oklahoma with words that indicated he was selected because he fit the Thunder cultural ideals: hard worker, drive to win, team oriented, strength of character, concern for the emotional wellbeing of his players as well as the athletics, doesn’t let his ego get in the way of the team.

In a very real sense, we are called to be the players, administrators, marketers, trainers, counselors, doctors, scouters, for Team Jesus. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you… It seems that these traits of the Thunder culture describe a part of our working toward the fruition of the Kingdom of God.

Just as God has gifted the Thunder players with amazing basketball skills, God has gifted each of us with some piece of the talents needed to make God’s way the way of the whole world, but we are responsible for honing our skills and using them to that purpose. It is a full time job that in many cases must be done while we are living our lives with jobs and family responsibilities. No one ever said it would be easy, but in our scripture today Jesus clearly says that when we are working, preferably together, toward the goal of turning the world toward God we are never alone.

It is an audacious promise that our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ will provide anything we ask toward the bearing of much fruit as his disciples, but we are called to be an audacious people fearless and bold.

Let us be today’s Christians. Let us not take fright at the boldness of today’s church. With Christ’s light let us illuminate even the most hideous caverns of the human person: torture, jail, plunder, want, chronic illness. The oppressed must be saved, not with a revolutionary salvation, in mere human fashion, but with the holy revolution of the Son of Man, who dies on the cross to cleanse God’s image, which is soiled in today’s humanity, a humanity so enslaved, so selfish, so sinful.
Oscar A. Romero, The Violence of Love

Prayer: Lord, make us bold in our discipleship whether it takes the strength to standup to injustice or acts of simple kindness to heal the wounds of the oppressed. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.